Kernels, Eagles clash tonightWhen looking at records, there are four teams that stick out in Class AA girls’ high school basketball. Two of them are meeting tonight at the Corn Palace.
By: Luke Hagen, The Daily Republic
When looking at records, there are four teams that stick out in Class AA girls’ high school basketball.
Two of them are meeting tonight at the Corn Palace.
At 7:30 p.m. today, No. 3-ranked Mitchell (13-2) hosts No. 1 Aberdeen (15-0) in an Eastern South Dakota Conference and highly important District 3AA game.
Both teams are among four that are could be considered near-locks to qualify for the state tournament this season. Mitchell is the defending Class AA champion and Aberdeen has qualified for the last 13 state tournaments. The last time the Eagles were not a state participant was the 1999-2000 season. The other two teams that are separated above the rest in terms of record are No. 2-ranked Sioux Falls Washington (15-1) and fourth-ranked Sioux Falls Roosevelt (13-3). After the top four teams, the next-best records are Rapid City Central and Sioux Falls Lincoln, both with five losses.
“Personally, I feel if you open it up to just those teams, you’re going to lose sight of what’s there,” Mitchell coach Wes Morgan said. “And if you think that way, you could end up playing for fifth (at the state tournament).”
Mitchell, which has four games after tonight’s, could make things interesting down the stretch with a win over the Eagles. The Kernels were handed their second and most recent loss of the season on Jan. 5, when they traveled to Aberdeen for a 63-55 loss. The game came one day after Mitchell suffered its first loss of the season, falling 59-49 to Sioux Falls Washington.
Since the back-to-back losses, the Kernels have rattled off eight straight wins and sit in second place in District 3AA, behind Aberdeen and ahead of Pierre (8-7) and Huron (2-14).
The Eagles have won 17 straight games dating back to last year’s fifth-place finish at state.
If Aberdeen wins tonight, it will likely hold the top seed in the district playoffs, forcing the Kernels to travel if both teams meet for the district championship game. If the Eagles win tonight, it will also give them a fast track to the ESD Conference title, something Mitchell claimed outright last year with an undefeated league record. If both teams finish with the same conference record, the ESD title would be shared.
With a Kernels win tonight, they’ll keep their hopes alive for overtaking Aberdeen for the district’s top spot, meaning home-court advantage throughout the postseason. Last year home-court proved to be pivotal in the postseason when Mitchell beat the Eagles 59-48 in the District 3AA championship.
“Home-court advantage is important because it’s almost like you have a sixth player on your side with the crowd,” Morgan said. “Everything is more comfortable.”
In the early January loss to Aberdeen, Mitchell’s Macy Miller had a game-high 31 points and Kerri Young had had 13 to account for all but 11 points of the Kernels scoring. Miller leads the team in scoring at 18.9 points per game and Young is at 17.6 points per game.
Aberdeen was more balanced in the first matchup with three players in double-scoring figures, leading the way was Brynn Flakus’ 24 points, Samantha Knecht’s 13 points and Leah Beringer’s 11.
“Going to Sioux Falls and then making a long trip to Aberdeen and play, it all kind of factored into it,” Morgan said. “We hadn’t played a team of that caliber yet before those two nights.
“(Tonight), I think we’ll have to play up to our capabilities. They’ve gotten better and we’ve gotten better.”